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Do The Right Thing

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In my last post, titled Make The Time, I mentioned that we spent a fair amount of time riffing on obvious blog titles. I decided to steal one of them for this post, even though the subject will have nothing to do with the example given in the last post.

That’s one of the points of the obvious blog titles, that they stand alone in people’s minds, until you associate a specific piece of content to a title.

I listen to one podcast religiously, The Business from KCRW. I’ve blogged about that podcast before. I discovered it when a friend of mine dropped me a link to their episode on Wicked (our favorite Broadway show). I loved that particular episode, and subscribed to the podcast through iTunes, and have been a fan ever since. (In gathering the links above, I see that they’ve changed the host of the show. Since I’m behind in listening to the most current episodes, I have yet to hear a show with the new host…)

I normally listen to two episodes at a time, when I exercise on my long walks. That takes care of the first hour (each episode is 29 minutes long). If I’m walking longer, I switch to music after the first hour.

The other day I was doing exactly that, and before and after the actual episode, they appealed for listeners to become members of KCRW, in order to financially support the podcast. Since this is the only podcast that I really listen to consistently, and I derive a lot of pleasure from it (in addition to gaining some useful information), I decided to become a member.

Even though I live in NY, never listen to the station, don’t listen to any of their other podcasts, and never stream their shows on the web, I decided to donate $50 (which seemed on the generous side to me for listening to this one podcast, though you may disagree). When I signed up on the site, I had a lot of technical difficulties completing my donation. I almost gave up (cursing in the process). In the end, I decided that I was committed to Do The Right Thing, and I persevered until I was successful.

At the $50 level, I was offered a list of goodies to choose from. I actually felt guilty picking anything, because that would mean that part of my donation would go to my gift. But, one of the choices was a cool KCRW T-Shirt, and I’m a T-Shirt freak. I also rationalized that I would be advertising for them whenever I wore it.

I was glad that they added another $5 for shipping, so I was slicing less into the actual profit (the T-Shirts never cost much to manufacture, even when they sell for a lot, or so I tell myself…). 🙂

I now feel better that I am supporting their effort to continue this wonderful series of interviews and analysis.

On to one more example of Do The Right Thing.

I have a fair bit of Delta SkyMiles, that I’ve had for over 10 years. We don’t fly much any more, but perhaps one day we will, likely for some big-time vacation (that we will have waited 15 years to take!).

Delta recently changed their expiration policy (I can’t blame them whatsoever), and all of my miles were set to expire on 4/30/2009. They were very good about informing me of the upcoming expiration, multiple times, starting in December 2008.

There are quite a number of things you can do to extend your expiration date by two years. The most obvious one is to fly on Delta. That wasn’t likely to happen. So, I searched the list of other things I could do.

By far the cheapest thing to do would have been to order one magazine, paying for it with SkyMiles. If you pick a monthly, you can get away with only using 500 miles. We don’t have any interest in adding to the amount of snail mail we get, so this would have been purely to roll the miles.

But, I continued to look down the list, and saw that you can also donate miles to a number of charities. We looked through the list, and decided to make a donation to the Children’s Miracle Network. It was substantially more miles than it would have cost to just order a magazine, but we felt much better about doing it.

After completing the transaction, the website informed me that the transaction might take 4-6 weeks to complete. I was worried that there was a chance that it wouldn’t get credited before 4/30/2009, and somehow, I’d lose the rest of my SkyMiles, and possibly even not get this donation completed.

So, purely as an extra safety precaution, I decided to order a magazine as well. While going through the ordering forms, I realized that I could send a magazine subscription as a gift to someone else (something that wasn’t obvious until you were deep in the process). We decided to send a subscription to Golf Digest to our godson (this is the first he’ll be hearing about this, and it won’t start for another month or so). 🙂

So, in trying to protect our miles, and also our donation to the Children’s Miracle Network, we were rewarded with the ability to give our godson a gift that we hope he will enjoy. Doing the Right Thing ended up enlarging the circle of rewards. A day later, the Delta site showed both deductions from my SkyMiles account, and also showed my new expiration date as 4/30/2011.

Success all around!

Girlyman Discovery

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OK, so it’s been way too long since I’ve even mentioned Girlyman in this space, let alone actually written something specific about them. 🙂

I was intending to walk (my long exercise walk) on Wednesday, in NYC. Instead, as I mentioned in yesterday’s post on Robert Plant and Alison Krauss, I had lunch with an old friend. That made me itch to exercise (though it was a very good trade!).

Today, I scratched that itch by walking in the woods near our house. I reported on this new (to me) path from our house to Rockwood Park and back in this post. That’s the exact route I took again today. One hour of very vigorous walking, with tons of uphill climbing.

For the past couple of weeks, I’ve been listening exclusively to podcasts of The Business from KCRW. I’ve written about them before, but I’ve let them just build up, knowing that I would enjoy them if I just listened. So, I’ve eschewed the music, and started whittling down the number of unlistened to episodes, and I’ve enjoyed every second. Each episode is 29 minutes, so I listen to four on my NYC walks and two on these new walks at the house.

So, I planned to listen to two more today. Each episode generally has two separate topics. During the first episode the second topic ended up being a repeat. So, I started the next episode. Again, the second topic was a repeat. So, instead of starting a third episode, I decided to go back to my roots, Girlyman.

I started playing the Live album, Somewhere Different Now. I’ve listened to it many times, and the songs that are on their studio CDs have been listened to more times than I can count. So, I know them well (or so I thought), and I sing along to almost every one out loud, if I’m alone, or if I don’t mind bugging Lois. 😉

Perhaps, because I was walking alone, in the bliss of nature, I had an epiphany during one verse of This Is Me, that I’ve sung along with out loud many times (so I knew the words cold), but never thought about them before. The second verse (not including the chorus) is:

The noble mind, it traps four pieces of the heart inside
We came in twos, and two by twos it seemed of little use
We felt the rain, our faces cold and pale, the colors drained
The oceans grew until we floated on a deeper hue

I had the most vivid vision of Noah’s Ark when I heard this verse. I realize that’s not a stretch when you read “We came in twos…” and “The oceans grew…”. But, when you read the rest of the lyrics, it doesn’t (necessarily) tie in to that theme, so when these words come in the middle, they don’t necessarily evoke that image.

Of course, Girlyman (Nate and Doris specifically) may not have meant that at all. I don’t care, which is one of the great things about great music/lyrics, you (the listener) get to bring your perception to the experience! 😉

Anyway, it was a wonderful moment for me, which feels a little trivial now, reporting it here in the cold light of the laptop, but I’m sharing it more for the renewal of spirit that comes from a great walk in nature, than for any insight about this particular song.

So, go, enjoy nature, listen to Girlyman, renew your spirit, then continue to do whatever it is you do, a little better for it! 🙂

My iPod Nano Teaches Me New Tricks

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Mostly, I listen to music on my iPod. On occasion, I have listened to an audio book or two, while exercising. One thing I have never done is watch a video. My old iPod 30GB probably could do it as well (it certainly could display photos), but I never even tried (not even a photo).

Up until very recently, I never subscribed to a podcast either. I have listened to a dozen podcasts directly from their authors’ websites, mostly poker podcasts, but never on the iPod, or through iTunes.

Two months ago, Lois sent me a link to a podcast from KCRW’s The Business, where they interviewed the producer of the show Wicked, Marc Platt. She didn’t listen to it, but asked me to check it out. I found it extremely informative, and I ended up subscribing to The Business podcast through iTunes.

I still hadn’t listened to any of the additional six episodes that automatically downloaded to my iTunes and then sync’ed to my iPod, but I knew that one day I would.

For 10 years, Lois and I commuted daily on the Metro-North railroad to NYC. I can’t recall the last time I’ve been on that train, but it has been years, for sure. Last night, a good friend was in town from Minnesota. We agreed to have dinner in Grand Central and I took the train in and back.

At first, I thought I’d bring along my Grado SR80’s and really enjoy some music on the train. Then I realized that the rumble of the train would cut into my enjoyment, since the Grado’s are not noise canceling, and my Sony and Bose NC’s were both in the city.

So, I realized that this would be a perfect opportunity to listen to a podcast or two. I already had episodes of The Business loaded up, but it occurred to me that this was a unique and ideal opportunity to see if there were some interesting video podcasts available. Clearly, I can’t watch video when I’m driving in the car (or can I?). 😉

So, I used iTunes to search for some video podcasts, specifically concentrating on comedy first. I read reviews of the Comedy Central stand-up excerpts, and most people were really disappointed with them. Then I read glowing reviews of a podcast by scantily clad women doing the news. People swore it was hysterical, and pleasing on the eyes as well.

How could I resist? So, I downloaded a dozen episodes (they average roughly three minutes each). I then downloaded 10 episodes of the Onion video podcast (I have read a few of their mock news articles online, and usually enjoyed them thoroughly!).

On to the train, turned on the Nano, and started watching the ladies doing the news. They are indeed easy on the eyes, even on a tiny Nano screen. That said, 95% of their material is mind-numbingly boring. You can see where they are aiming (on occasion), but it’s really tedious. Hard to imagine something three minutes long can get tedious, but they achieve it brilliantly!

So, while they beg (on every episode) for bloggers to link to them, I just can’t bring myself to throw them a link. I’m unsubscribing from them.

Of course, since they are so short, I watched them all…

Then I moved on to the Onion. Way more professional (meaning, superb fakes of real shows, like their spoof of the Today Show). The comedy though is very up and down. All of the ideas are clever, but some of the execution is not only tedious, but feels like watching a train wreck. Others though, are delightful and brilliant. So, I’m not unsubscribing the Onion just yet.

The real point is that the experiment worked. I could use my crappy ear buds, on a raucous train ride, since high fidelity was not necessary. The video made the focus of attention easy, and the ride in both directions quick. That said, I finished the ride with another audio-only episode of The Business. Even though I had no video to keep me entertained, the content was way more interesting, and therefore kept me much more engaged. I am most definitely going to continue listening to future podcasts from them. They average close to 30 minutes in length, so it’s a commitment.